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Showing posts with the label Reality

Cutthroat Kitchen: Sabotage Is Coming to Town (2014)

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Cutthroat Kitchen is a cooking competition show about invention, adversity, and screwing over your opponents. We really enjoy it.

Like many competition shows, one contestant leaves after each round. Each round consists of a challenge and a set of sabotages. Each contestant starts with $25,000 that they can use to bid on these sabotages and disadvantage other contestants. The winner gets bragging rights and whatever money he or she has left. Winning (or doing well) is usually a combination of bidding strategy, luck, and the inventive skill to change your plan on the fly and MacGyver weird foodstuffs into something that's both edible and fancy-looking.

This special Christmas episode features Chefs Keith, Kelley, Angelo, and Phillip. The set is decorated, and the challenges and sabotages all follow the holiday theme.

In round one, the challenge is "ham dinner." Angelo spends a good amount of his starting cash to win all the sabotages (sold together as a set). This means tha…

Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within: Christmas (2002)

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This was a Canadian reality television show about several Cirque du Soleil performers in Montreal. I expect the part of that sentence that leapt out at you was "Cirque du Soleil". Sadly, the part you should be focusing on is "Canadian reality television," which - judging by this - is roughly analogous to a PBS documentary about the production and distribution of toothpicks.

Perhaps this series would be better seen from the beginning. Or perhaps the Christmas episode was unusually dull. But, whatever the reason, this was far more boring than you'd imagine anything about people performing in a Cirque could possibly be.

By its nature, the plot was extremely thin. Several characters appeared, but I only recall two threads that could even generously be called "plots". To be fair, I could easily be forgetting something, as the episode has almost entirely faded from my mind in the five minutes that passed between watching it and writing this review.

First, …

The Muppets: Single All the Way (2015)

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You know how sometimes I use the existence of a Christmas episode to talk at length about the series it's part of? Yeah, this is definitely going to be one of those times.

For decades, The Muppets have been severely hampered by their own past. The 70's series remains one of the television's all-time greatest series, their first movie was brilliant and whimsical, and their early Christmas specials are legendary. But for several decades, the franchise has lived in those shadows. At best, new productions offered a faithful homage to past successes; at worst, they were cheap cash grabs. This is true even of the specials I've loved - basically, anything after Henson passed felt it was retreading old ground.

The 2011 movie deviated slightly by devoting some attention to considering the nature of the Muppets' relationship to their fictitious world, but by and large it was still more a tribute than a new chapter.

Last year's series, however, was fresh and modern. Sure…

Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Christmas Special (2013)

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I'm still a little unclear what we just sat through. I understood the basics, of course. It was an episode of a reality show about a wealthy family who somehow managed to catapult themselves into cultural relevancy without offering anything of real value - no art, no philanthropy, nothing but a series detailing their attempts to stay in the public eye. But I don't understand why it was put on television, or why anyone turned it on.

Was it some kind of a freak show? The editing seemed to portray the Kardashians that way, though it's difficult to make that assessment after just one episode (and I have no intention of ever sitting through another). It was an hour and five minutes, and that's without commercials - God, how I longed for the sweet respite of a merciful commercial break. Every time the streaming paused to buffer was a gift. A GIFT.

Are they really as vapid as they seemed, or were they simply acting like dimwitted socialites for the camera? I have no idea. It…

Duck Dynasty: I'm Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas (2012)

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The best thing I can say about this episode is that it isn't, strictly speaking, unwatchable, and even then the statement is made at what I consider my most generous of moods. But it is, of course, Christmas, and at Christmas we should be charitable and giving. So I will give the Robertsons this: their Christmas episode was not literally unwatchable. It was merely crappy. Idiotic. And stupid.

I should most likely add this represents my first real experience watching the Robertson clan, unless you count the Youtube video that got Phil Robertson suspended from A&E for a few weeks. The experience was not quite what I'd expected.
The only thing I really understood about the series Duck Dynasty was that it was a reality show staring a family of millionaires bearing an odd resemblance to ZZ Top who'd made their fortune producing duck calls. As it turned out, I was slightly off: this wasn't remotely a reality show.
It pretended to be a reality show, but the situations we…

I Am Santa Claus (2014)

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I am Santa Claus is a documentary exploring a number of professional Santas' lives throughout the year. The subject matter is very reminiscent to that explored in Becoming Santa, though the perspective is slightly shifted. Both are fantastic documentaries, but I actually think this was a little more interesting.

There were five primary Santas in the movie, in addition to countless minor characters. The movie chose some fairly unique subjects to help you keep them straight, no easy feat given that everyone in the movie is working to become the same character.

The most famous subject is Mick Foley, a professional wrestler with a lifelong love of Christmas and St. Nicholas. Like Jack Sanderson in Becoming Santa, he's playing the part for the first time. The documentary introduces the juxtaposition between his former image and his new role, though it's hard to lend much credence to his violent performance: the man comes off as infectiously nice and gentle-hearted. In addition,…

Becoming Santa (2011)

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I stumbled across this on Netflix, where it stood out like a sore thumb. I'm used to seeing Christmas stuff there, of course, but this really jumped out at me. Why? Netflix, for those who don't know, gives everything an estimated rating, based on your personal ratings of things you've watched previously. So in a sea of items marked with one or two stars, this was rated at four. We put it on before we even realized it was a documentary.

The movie follows the adventures of Jack Sanderson as he sets out to become one of the countless Santa Clauses who appear every Christmas. Occasionally, the documentary cuts away to interviews with a slew of experts and Santas who have been at the game longer.

There's an awful lot to like here. The documentary begins with Jack having his beard and hair bleached, a process that turned out being pretty unpleasant (well, unpleasant for him - it was hilarious to watch). He then took a two-day course in becoming Santa Claus and headed to the…

Extreme Christmas Trees (2011)

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We came across this on Netflix and watched it on a whim. It's essentially a series of segments about Christmas trees and Christmas tree-inspired displays judged by TLC to be "extreme."

The first segment is about a thirty-two foot tall Christmas tree that gets wedged into the Biltmore House by hand. There was a ridiculous amount of pageantry surrounding this: they actually drove it up the house in a horse-drawn carriage, a choice that almost led to disaster because horses, unlike trucks, don't have an emergency brake.

The narration was particularly egregious while the tree was going up: they tried to ratchet up the tension. "With victory just a few feet away, the unimaginable happens." For those of you following along, the unimaginable was that they ran into a moderate snag which they quickly corrected before any damage was done. Of course, they did - these people are professionals, and they can get the job done even if they have to do so without machines, …

O Christmas Tree (2005)

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"O Christmas Tree" is a PBS documentary made in 2005 (or 2006 - it's seems to be a little difficult to get the date clarified). Lindsay and I found it at the local library and picked it up on a whim. The description claims it "traces the history of the Christmas through the ages - from its origins as a pagan symbol of fertility to a Christian symbol of rebirth." Technically, there is a section of the DVD devoted to that, but it's about as in depth and comprehensive as the sentence above: there's very little meat to that or anything else the documentary touches on. It's slightly less educational than the Frosty sequels with a fraction of the production values.

But that's not important. All you need to know is that this thing is the Plan 9 of Christmas documentaries. It's completely fucking hilarious.

First of all, it's narrated by Richard Karn. Don't bother with IMDB: he's Al from Home Improvement. And he just phones this in. Eve…

Mythbusters: Holiday Special (2004)

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Huh. I was not actually expecting that one to be so boring. Only it was, in fact, really boring.

Has Mythbusters always been boring, but I only watched it at times in my life when I wasn’t very picky? Although come to think of it, Mythbusters has always been something that I either heard about or would occasionally watch a clip from, not a show I ever sat down and watched.

In this episode, a great deal of screen time is dedicated to building a Rube Goldberg device centering on the Mentos-soda reaction and a few holiday knick-knacks. It has to be designed and built and talked about and then tried over and over. These segments are dull, un-whimsical, and annoying.

Meanwhile, the kids on the show “test” a bunch of other “myths”, although I think they might have been scraping the bottom of the internet for some of these.

Can you break your foot (or a small dog) by dropping a frozen turkey on it?
Well, considering the weight and density of a frozen turkey, I’d say, duh.

What crazy remed…